This swoony adaptation of the second installment in Stephenie Meyer's young-adult series is a potent stew of fairy tale and romance-novel fantasy set in the primeval woods of the American Northwest. Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography is breathtaking and crisp. The swoopy camerawork is synchronized to Bella's hormonal surges and tumbles.
This adaptation of the second in the abstinence-makes-the-heart-grow-fondler quartet from Meyer is a gloss on Romeo and Juliet. But screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and director Chris Weitz give us a story that is equally "Beauty and the Beast(s)" and "Two Shirtless Cute Boys Rescue Damsel in Distress."
In her senior year of high school, Bella studies R & J in English, turns 18, and demands more than a chaste kiss from Edward. He can't live without Bella. Nor can he live with himself if he "changes" her - i.e., deflowers her and makes her a vampire.
Then he leaves town for Italy to ask the Vampire Vatican to kill him. When her Romeo decamps, Bella thinks about ending at all, indulges in risky behavior, and has a motorcycle accident. When Jacob takes off his T-shirt to dab her bloody forehead, his sculpted torso (this ain't no six-pack but a 12-pack!) gives Bella reason to live.
Frankly erotic, though appropriate for those 12 and older, New Moon (like its source material and also like many romantic movies and literature before 1970) is about the sexual heat generated by chastity. Let's just say its temperature is about 104 degrees.
It is also about the two types of boys to whom girls are drawn: Brainiac and Jock, the madonna/whore of male archetypes.
To this end, Weitz gives his audience a number of slo-mo shots of the male heroes, sequences that straddle the fence between blatantly cheesy and hypnotically mesmerizing. Weitz shows how the objects of our affection move in transfigured time. See Edward walk across the high school parking lot like one running underwater. See Jacob flex pecs and abs like a stop-motion replay of a Miss America strut.
Readers of the novels know whom Bella will choose. But New Moon isn't so much about Bella's choice as it is the novelty of a female on screen getting to choose and not waiting to be chosen.
Given this swoon-inducer, Summit Entertainment would be well-advised to set up fainting couches in the multiplex lobby and provide smelling salts to those who need them.
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/